Someone you know may be misusing alcohol if:
Physical signs of alcohol misuse:
Alcohol makes you feel more relaxed in the short-term, but according to independent UK charity Drinkaware*, regular misuse can lead to a person becoming more stressed.
Some of the physical signs are:
Alcohol slows down the brain and the processes of the central nervous system’s processes, which can affect your work performance badly, your concept of safety as well as your interactions with those you love.
For more information on alcohol misuse please check out the NHS website.
One of the biggest barriers to people getting help for alcohol/drug addiction is the stigma associated with the disease. 9/10 people with mental health problems have reported experiencing stigma and discrimination in their lives.
Stigma is a negative attitude imposed by society on people who it judges as not ‘normal’. It is a reaction of fear, ignorance and prejudice. Alcoholism is an illness, and it is not anyone’s fault that someone might suffer of it.
Accept that your colleague has an illness, a treatable illness and it’s not their fault. Recovery from alcohol and drug addiction is possible.
Look into the support offered by your employer in their alcohol policy. It can be difficult asking for help in a situation when you are worried about the consequence. You may just find your colleague has more rights than you are aware of and your employer may even support with treatment.
We are rich in services in Scotland. Take a look at our partners or visit your local ADP site to find out about support groups near you. If the opportunity arises to talk to your colleague about help available to them you will be prepared.
If you feel safe with your colleague, speak to them about your worries about their alcohol and drug problems. They may just be grateful that you are opening up to them and can be of great support in the recovery process.
Timing matters when dealing with your friend. Don’t try to talk when your friend is drunk or high; it’s too difficult to take in what you’re saying, and the situation could escalate.
Instead, talk with your friend when he or she is clearheaded. One approach is to reach out when your friend is hungover or remorseful following a drinking incident—when the negative consequences are fresh in your friend’s mind.
Don’t worry about saying things perfectly. Expressing your concern for your loved one in a caring and honest way is the most important message you can convey.
You might want to take someone with you who understands your concern for your friend’s problem, perhaps someone with a connection to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or a similar group. Click here for some suggestions.
You could also tell someone what you’re doing and have him or her available by phone for support. It is a good idea to meet with your friend on neutral turf, but not in a restaurant or bar or where alcohol is available.
Be supportive. No matter how “bad” your friend’s behaviour has been lately, he or she is not a bad person. Addiction is a disease, and it’s been recognised as such so don’t blame or criticise. Check out our page on Stigma to find out more about the pressures they may be under.
You’re speaking up because you care about your friend’s life and health, not to make them “get their act together.”
Be specific about what you’re seeing. Bring up particular incidents such as, “When you canceled our plans the other day” rather than sweeping statements such as, “You never keep your word.” It’s also helpful to frame the conversation by using “I” phrases, such as “I noticed” or “I’m worried” because your friend can’t dispute your perceptions and feelings.
Be encouraging. Talk about the effect your friend’s drinking or drug use has on whatever he or she cares about most: career, children, sports, etc. Your friend may not be concerned about his or her own situation, but may care deeply for his or her children, for example, and the impact on them.
Be prepared. You might want to write down what you want to say, and that could vary depending on the level of your friendship: close friend, casual friend or coworker. Here are some ideas for “opening lines” to help you approach each type of friend in the most effective way. Of course, your friend could respond in any number of ways besides the few examples given. The main thing is to listen, stick to the facts, show a caring attitude and offer your assistance and support.
“You know, Barb, we’ve been friends for a long time now, as close as sisters. And, while I don’t want to meddle, I’ve noticed that you’re drinking and getting high more lately, and you don’t seem to be getting along with your family as much as you used to. I’m worried about you. Let’s talk about it.”
If Barb says: “You know, you’re right. I have noticed that I’ve been drinking more in the last couple of months. But I think it’s because I’ve been under more pressure than usual at work and at home. It’s probably just a phase. I’m sure I’ll snap out of it soon.”
You can say: “I know it appears a drink or two can take the edge off temporarily. But drinking can’t solve your problems, and from what you’ve told me, things seem to be getting worse, maybe because you’re drinking more. A professional assessment by a counsellor or therapist can help you figure out if you’re dealing with alcohol addiction or what else might be going on with all of this stress you’re experiencing.”
“Jim, I’ve always enjoyed playing cards with you. But after a couple of beers, I see a personality change, and there are arguments. It’s not like you. You usually get along with everyone except when you’re drinking. I’d hate to see you lose your friends.”
If Jim says: “Who are you to tell me I drink too much? We all have a few when we play cards. And the words I had with Al and Walt were no big deal. I just got a little hot under the collar.”
You can say: “Jim, I don’t count how many drinks you or anyone else has. I’ve just noticed that at some point in the evening, after you’ve been drinking awhile, I see a more argumentative side of you. I don’t want to see you destroy your relationships with people who care about you. So I thought I’d mention it now because I’m your friend and I want to help.”
“Chris, you’re one of the brightest people I know. But recently, you’ve been missing a lot of work and coming in late. And this week, my report got held up because I didn’t have your input. You don’t seem to be yourself. I know you’ve been drinking (or using drugs) a lot. If you’re having a problem with alcohol, drugs or anything else, I’d be happy to help you get the assistance you need. I’d hate to see you lose your job.”
If Chris says: “Hey, I know I’ve been a little out of control recently, and I have been partying more than usual, but don’t worry. I’m working on getting my act together.”
You can say: “Well, I hope you do. But sometimes it’s hard to get your act together by yourself. So if you need any help, please know that I’m here and I’ll listen. I value your friendship and will do anything I can.”
Check out the AA website here for information about meets in your area.
Don’t be surprised, and don’t take it personally. Denial is one of the unfortunate symptoms of addiction. So if you feel you’re not getting through to your friend, it’s not your fault or your friend’s fault. It’s okay to back off and let your friend know that whenever he or she is ready for help, you’ll be there. You could also give your friend the phone number of a local AA group.
By raising the issue with your friend, you’ve planted a seed of recovery that could grow when you least expect it. In the meantime, stay in touch and continue to show your concern and support. For example, if your friend only wants to meet where he or she can drink, suggest another place. Don’t offer alcohol when your friend visits. Don’t continue to lend money if that’s an ongoing problem. Don’t accept late-night calls when your friend is drunk or high.
Before getting together with your friend, contact AA to get a schedule of meetings in your area. That way, if your friend readily admits to having a problem and wants to do something about it, you’ll be prepared with meeting dates and locations. You could even offer to provide a ride to a meeting or connect your friend with an AA contact person.
If going to a meeting seems like too big a first step to your friend, suggest an assessment by a counsellor, physician or mental health professional who is knowledgeable about substance abuse and sobriety.
You may also want to call a local outpatient or inpatient treatment program to learn about services and options. If your friend wants to know more about going to an addiction treatment program, offer to be there when he or she calls for more information.
Abuse comes in many other forms than just physically which makes it difficult to recognize it sometimes. Have a look at the list below for common forms of abuse and make sure to explore the links in the bottom of the page for more information and help.
Common Signs of Abuse:
Remember that it’s also important to listen to your “gut feeling” – if you feel uneasy and scared around someone but can’t explain why, this could be your body telling you something is wrong. If you feel unusually anxious around your partner and worry that they may harm you, pay attention to those feelings and seek support before it goes too far.
When you are in a relationship with an abusive or alcoholic partner, you may spend a lot of time feeling like you are walking on eggshells. Even the slightest thing can cause a spark of aggression which can quickly escalate into a dangerous situation, so it is helpful to understand some of the most common triggers. These include:
Environmental factors: an unwashed pan, dirty carpet or something being left in the “wrong” place can easily cause an abusive partner to fly off the handle. Equally, noise, distractions and being unable to access drugs or alcohol can quickly lead to aggressive behaviour.
Embarrassment and humiliation: if someone who is prone to aggression feels they are being criticised, laughed at or not treated with respect they can quickly become dangerous.
Fear: even people who seem to be strong and confident can easily become fearful of the world around them, and this is often an important factor in those with abusive tendencies. Fear of not being good enough or losing something/someone important to them can easily transfer to aggressive or threatening behaviour.
Rejection: this is a common trigger of aggressive behaviour, often related to relationship breakups, disinterest from a potential partner or failing to secure a job or promotion.
Tiredness: sleep is important for all aspects of our wellbeing, including our mental health. Tiredness can make us people short tempered and more likely to fly off the handle if something goes wrong.
Drugs and Alcohol: drink and certain drugs, such as cocaine, crack, methamphetamine, amphetamine and spice, can all trigger aggressive behaviour and loss of control.
It is important to understand that while these triggers can help to explain the causes of aggressive behaviour, they should never be seen as an excuse. If your partner is aggressive it is not your fault, and you have the right to live a peaceful life without fear.
If you use drink to try and improve your mood or mask your depression, you may be starting a vicious cycle…warning signs that alcohol is affecting your mood include:
Four ways to help prevent alcohol affecting your mood:
Drinking can have harmful consequences both for the drinker and to people around them. Everyone might get used to the situation and treat it as normal, which might make seeking help seem unnecessary. Please have a look at some of the issues that you or people close to you might face due to alcoholism.